Pass the wine, I'm a terrible parent
AS this is the one hundredth Family Guy column, I thought I might share a few of the hard-won life lessons in being a husband and father of four that I have learned over the past two years of painstaking observation, despite my family's rather unenthusiastic protestations on this occasion of 'Spare us' and 'Please, please don't'.
"If I read any sort of mention of that article that time about me falling into the wheelie bin," warns my wife, "I will leave you."
"Noted," I say.
"Likewise," she continues, "describing me in one of your columns again as having a 'voice like a Gatling gun' or 'shrieking like air-raid siren', may be grounds for divorce."
"Right," I tell her.
"Or murder," she glares.
So not withstanding these few ground rules, I hope some of the following pointers may be useful, whether you are somewhat seasoned in the dark arts of family life, or you are stood teetering on the dizzying precipice of doing so, eyes agog and arms like pinwheels.
First off, to the home. Never forget, DIY is for suckers. You will never get the praise your masterpiece of wood-glue, paint and screws deserve. As my wife might say, if she were speaking to me, "At least if we get a 'real man' in, we won't all have to stand around and applaud when he's finished."
Anyway, no matter how long your list of projects, chances are slim you'll ever be allowed to buy a hard-hat and one of those brilliant tool belts with all the pockets; one of those ones you can hang your hammer from and feel like a gun-slinger.
Why not? Because most families have little understanding of a man's true needs.
Speaking of which, it's not your fault that you will never be a rock star, so long as lip-syncing to The Boss with a brush handle does not qualify as an item on the household 'to do' list. Apparently.
Next up, the family car.
Let's face it, the more you want or need to get somewhere, the harder it will be to loosen the nuts on that flat tyre, and the further your wife will have to walk to call a mechanic to help humiliate you in return for your forgetting to recharge the phone.
And don't feel bad when that burly bloke sidles up and has the wheel off in 30 seconds. Remember, you already did all the hard work.
When on a family driving holiday abroad, hire two cars. Your sanity will thank you. Also, be unapologetically devious about how you choose which of the four kids you take in your vehicle, and 'bagsy' the one with the best French and the one most capable at reading Google Maps.
Bear in mind, an entire glove compartment full of Starburst chews will not prevent the youngest from getting car-sick, it will just make it a more colourful experience.
Last of all, 'It's the destination, not the journey' and, when confined to a single vehicle, the volume of the radio should exceed, in direct proportion, the volume of screaming and fighting in the back. Now, don't stop until you get there. Drive, man! Drive!
At Christmas, it's a good idea to stay as sober as possible until after writing names on all the gift tags.
It seems that 12-year-old boys are not overly impressed with unwrapping lingerie and back rub meant for your wife, even when you tell him you'll still love him no matter what way he turns out.
Also, turkey does not take seven hours in a fan oven on high when you're cooking it in a roasting bag. Who knew bones could liquefy? News to me.
Another handy tip when out and about: Supermarket check-out girls don't really want to know how you are, even if they ask. It's what's called a 'rhetorical question', meaning you're not supposed to put your elbows on the conveyor belt, clutch your face and let it all out.
And don't bother asking them, "Is supermarket music getting cooler, or am I just getting older?" Not unless you really want an honest answer and end up with a queue of angry shoppers behind you as you try to explain 'Berlin-era Bowie' to a pair of glazed eyes and a chewing-gum jaw.
You know those news reports where they use the words 'a scene ensued'? This would probably be one of those.
Just when life starts getting easier, the kids are becoming more independent and you and your wife are finally beginning to claw back a few hours of quality time to yourselves, get a puppy - just to remind yourselves, in case you'd forgotten, that no precious family artefact is impervious to teeth, and there is no surface that cannot be desecrated by what is effectively a runaway slurry tank on four paws, with all the bladder control of a ruptured fire hydrant. Because, why would you not?
Lastly, despite everything, keep in mind that parenting teens can be very rewarding, even when 'you suck', according to them.
Embrace this assessment. Then, after a long and thankless day of 'being crap', 'ruining everything' and 'who asked you anyway?' open a nice bottle of wine, the very best your children's post-office savings can afford.
See? Reward. Who said being a grown-up can't be fun.